What happens if a rodent damages my car?
Collisions with animals are not the only way that wildlife can cause damage to a person’s vehicle. In some cases, animals can cause vehicle damages without being involved in an accident. There are numerous ways that an animal may cause damage to a parked vehicle such as:
- A pet left inside of a car can tear up or chew the upholstery
- A large animal like a bull can charge at a car, causing dents and punctures as they attack it
- A stray cat can climb inside of a car’s open sun roof and cause damage while trying to escape
- A rodent can get inside a car’s engine compartment and chew wiring, rendering the car non-driveable
- An animal may get inside the car or its engine compartment and die, causing a bad smell to permeate the interior
No matter how the damage occurs, the incident will be covered under comprehensive coverage. This means that the insured will not be found at fault for the damage, but they will need to pay the deductible listened on the policy. If the animal causing the damage belongs to someone else, that person may or may not be found liable for the damage.
Preventing Animal Damage
Although animal-related damages are sometimes unavoidable, there are a few ways that you can reduce your likelihood of having your car damaged by animals:
— Carry Comprehensive Coverage
This won’t prevent an animal from damaging your car, but it will provide you with protection against these damages. Even if you don’t drive the car, comprehensive is valuable; it’s cheaper than collision, and it covers a wide array of incidents. All vehicles kept in storage should have comprehensive coverage.
— Start it Frequently
Even if you don’t drive the car, avoid leaving it parked unattended for a long period. Starting the car and moving it occasionally will help prevent animals from seeing it as a potential nesting place. It will also help prevent mechanical problems that can be caused by neglect.
— Keep all Windows Closed
Don’t store a vehicle with its windows rolled down or sun roof open. Stray cats and wild animals might climb into your car and then be unable to find a way out. At best, the animal might tear apart your interior while searching for an escape route; at worst, it will die inside the car and decompose, leaving it with an impossible-to-eradicate stench.
— Use a Garage
Whenever possible, keep your car stored in a garage. This will not prevent attention from all animals, but it will cut down on the likelihood of the car being targeted by most wild creatures. Be sure to keep the garage as clean and pest-free as possible to further reduce your odds of sustaining damage from an opportunistic rodent.
— Don’t Eat in Your Car
Not only does eating in your car distract you and cause possible stains in your upholstery, the scent might attract animals. Most animals have much sharper noses than humans, and they will be able to detect the lingering scent of food for a long time. They may try to get into the car in order to locate the source of the smell.
How to Identify Damages Caused by Animals
In some cases, the cause of damage will be self-evident. In other cases, the vehicle’s owner may not realize what happened until the car is taken into a body shop. For example, a car that’s been left in storage for quite awhile may one day refuse to start for no apparent reason; once that car is towed to the shop, the mechanic may find frayed wires caused by rodents chewing through them. Similarly, a vehicle may develop a very bad smell that turns out to be a decaying animal body somewhere in the car, such as inside the engine, under the seats or even inside the door panels.
Although this situation sounds frivolous, these types of damages can lead to a car becoming a total loss. In cars that rely heavily on electronics, chewed wiring can lead to computer short-circuits, which can fry the on-board computer and render the car useless. In the case of a decaying animal, the smell may be impossible to remove from the car even if all of the interior is stripped out and replaced.
How to File a Claim for Non-Accident Damage
Because these situations can quickly get expensive, it’s a good idea to file a claim as soon as you learn what caused the damage. An insurance adjuster will be sent to assess the damage and confirm the cause of the incident. If you have comprehensive coverage on your policy, the claim will be settled accordingly. If the car is repairable, your insurance will pay for the cost of repairs; otherwise, you will receive the cash value of the vehicle less any applicable deductible.